PHOENIX — Elias Diaz ran through the streets of the bustling capital city he calls home, up and down vast beaches that straddle the Gulf of Venezuela, and frequented a local baseball field to try to correct what went wrong months earlier. The offseason routine, Diaz said, had one explicit purpose: to help him become one of the best catchers in the major leagues.
Diaz, the Pirates' backup catcher, turned 27 this past November, yet he had never appeared on a major league opening day roster. Injuries delayed his arrival in the majors, and it wasn't until Francisco Cervelli missed the final month last season that Diaz received his first audition as the Pirates' starter.
Diaz's command of the pitching staff and game-calling behind home plate were the subject of Clint Hurdle's admiration. However, Diaz wanted so much more. He wanted his offense, a strength during his time in the minors, to return. After a tumultuous offseason at home, Diaz has experienced a breakthrough that he hopes is only the beginning.